Tuesday, May 31, 2011

St. Croix Sheep

Here is the pair of St. Croix Sheep also known as hair sheep that we picked up this past week end. They are green machines. In other words, they don't require petro fuels, they don't break down and need a mechanic, and they work in the sun and the rain! We were down to only two sheep on the farm and too much pasture to keep mowed. So this pair of two year old wethered (neutered) sheep will help with the trimming!

As you can see, there is a big difference between the woolly sheep and the hair sheep. The Woollies need to be sheared every spring, but the hair sheep shed their winter wool. The hair sheep will also eat a bigger variety of grasses and weeds which will help keep the pasture grass at a more manageable level.

Now they are adjusting to their new home. These two fellows had never seen chickens or other breeds of sheep and their curious antics were fun to watch. We will be getting another pair of St. Croix Sheep at the end of June they will just be weaned by then and oh, so cute!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Here's the lucky farm under the rainbow! Happy Memorial Day and thank you to all of the men, women, family, and friends who have given of themselves for liberty and freedom. Enjoy the day and celebrate with those you love~

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberries and Chicken Wrangling!

There is an amazing strawberry patch right outside our kitchen window with over ten thousand strawberry plants. It is closer to the kitchen than the barn and the chickens have discovered it. At first, it was a casual meeting and greeting, and the hens were snagging as many slugs and runaway bugs as they could. Then the luscious berries started to ripen into ruby red sugar bites! The hens could not resist. Fortunately, for us it is only three of our flock of 20 that have the wanderlust. Tim has patched holes in the fence that looked innocent, he has built up mounds of soil under the gate and then guarded the field with rapt attention. One day was given to three rescues and a grand commotion that included two farm dogs, three hens, and one farmer wrangler.

Now, here is the rest of the story: The strawberry patch belongs to our neighbor!! We barter and trade many things and it all evens out beautifully, but the ladies in the strawberry patch is definitely crossing the line! Our neighbors are gracious people and thought the hens may do more good than harm, but then we saw this:

More than six pounds of perfectly ripened and sweet perfection (despite the coolish weather) strawberries and they were just for us! So the chicken wrangler got even more serious about his berry patch watch!

There was plenty of berries to eat fresh and more for our first batch of the season strawberry jam. The kitchen began to smell delicious with all of the berry goodness cooking!

We ended up getting about three quarts of jam out of the berries, plus we had many for eating and snacking on, and even drizzling over the top of vanilla ice cream. The hens still got a little sampling of the candy red sweetness because the tops were given to them in the compost scraps.

Moral of the story: Chicken wranglers are well paid! xo

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Aiden!

What a fun two-year old! Aiden is busy with his brothers and sisters and Mama and Daddy, and all of the family around that loves him so much! Have a wonderful birthday, Aiden! We love you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life on the Farm Right Now

Lambs in the front pasture in the lush, long, green grass that will need to be mowed or eaten. Walnut trees that are the latest to bloom and leaf out on the farm. Hens loving the pastures to forage for the tastiest bugs and seeds. Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower starts waiting to be planted. The beginning of pears turning into juicy end of the summer fruits. Boysenberry blossoms that make our mouths water in anticipation of the ripe berries. Life on the farm right now is bursting forth with growth and the promise of plenty~

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rhubarb and Spiders

The rhubarb is ripening. Don't worry, there were no spiders in the rhubarb, but a sneaky black widow in one of the out buildings decided to take a nibble on my wrist. All's well that end's well, but the venom effect masqueraded as back labor for a few days, which is altogether unpleasant as there is no baby to hold in the end! But, there is rhubarb and a little slow jelly making in the healing time.

Here the rhubarb has been rinsed and chopped and some of the long stringy strips peeled away. It smelled so good. There is about 5 cups of rhubarb here.

Four cups of sugar get stirred into the chopped rhubarb. Stir it so every piece of tangy tart rhubarb gets coated with some sugar. Cover it, and then the wait. The sugar will do its magic all by itself. If you happen to walk by, give it a stir. It needs to sit all day and through the night. See what I mean about slow jelly?!

The sugar has juiced up the rhubarb and mostly dissolved. There will be a layer of sugar at the bottom, but it all gets used in the jelly process. Oh, by the way, the recipe comes out of this cookbook. The Amish have so many wonderful ways of cooking.

Here it is up close. If you breathe deeply, you will just nearly smell the sugary rhubarb goodness!

Now the sugar and rhubarb mixture is set to boil hard for 5 minutes on the stove top. Add 1-2 cups of water to help all sugar dissolve. Also add the secret ingredient of all jam and jellies: a nip of butter to keep the foaming down; it doesn't take much, maybe 1/8 of a teaspoon. Stir and make sure all sugar on the sides of the pot have gotten mixed in as well. Otherwise sugar crystals will form on the jelly later.

Now it is time for the mystery ingredient. It is hard to imagine, so it will be revealed slowly. See the little corner of the box peaking out from behind the pot? Well, before the jelly is poured into the hot jars, a 6 ounce package of (I can hardly say it. This is contraband around the farm!!) a package of strawberry jello!!! Yes, J-E-L-L-O! Add this to the boiled rhubarb and sugar mixture and stir well so all of it is dissolved. It will take about 2 minutes of stirring, stirring, stirring.

Now it is time to fill the hot jars, wipe the rims, and seal with hot lids and bands. Place the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes or invert on the counter. The Ball Blue Book for canning requires the hot water bath.

Finally it is time for the taste test! Serve over hot biscuits with melted butter and coffee or tea, this is good therapy for spider bites or anything else that ails you. Don't worry too much about the Jello. Your secret is safe with me!

Home Improvements

The old farmhouse was built in 1930. We have made many renovations in the last 13 years, mostly to maintain the craftsman quality of the home. One of the rooms that has been neglected in the downstairs bedroom. Several years ago, a cougar came to the property for a chicken dinner. Actually, the cougar helped himself to many chickens for dinner that night. In the excitement, yours truly thought to bang on the bedroom window in order to distract the cougar. It was not a successful strategy and in fact, it broke the inside pane of glass. Well, now it is years later and with the help of the outer storm windows, the broken window has been ignored. Now it is time for the replacement!

Here is the old, tired looking window, and the last of the evidence of the dreadful night of a cougar in the barnyard.

Here is the after picture of the new windows and freshly painted walls. Next will be the trim around the windows and the ceiling and floor. The light fixture will also have a makeover, but for now this is good progress. The garden planting season is later than usual this year because of the wet, damp spring, so the finish work just might be complete by the first of June!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

We have a piece of apple pie saved just for you! Have a wonderful day, celebrating, remembering, creating, being you... I love you~

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rice, Tortillas, and More

It all started with 5-7 cloves of garlic, one medium onion, and about 3 tablespoons of butter. The Spanish rice was well underway! It takes about 10 minutes for the onion to soften and the sweetness to develop. Then 2 cups of rice was added. I had Jasmine rice in the cupboard, but Basmati rice works nicely too. Stir the rice and onion mixture so it won't burn, but allow the rice to brown to deepen the flavor. This will take about 10 minutes on medium low heat.

One large carrot was chopped into small pieces and added to the browned rice-garlic-onion mixture, then a small can of fire roasted green chilies. Peas can be added to the rice mixture too. Usually we add about 1/2 cup of peas, I just simply forgot!

Last, but not least, a quart sized jar of garden fresh tomatoes was added along with the liquid from the jar. Add additional liquid depending on how much rice is being cooked. These tomatoes were called Amish Paste tomatoes. They are a delicious variety of Roma tomatoes and super sweet. Canning tomatoes is the easiest and fastest way to preserve them, and definitely worth the effort, especially at this time of year when tomatoes are very expensive at the market.

Now all of the yummy flavors will simmer, cook, and combine. The rice will soften and fluff up and there will be plenty for leftovers.

Then the time for tortillas had arrived. Karyn shared this recipe with me and it is so easy to make your own flour tortillas.

2 Cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. shortening
1/2 C. to 3/4 C. water
Combine the first three ingredients, then cut in the shortening. Add water. Stir until well mixed. Let sit for up to 20 minutes to allow the gluten to activate, then divide into 12 or 13 balls. Roll each ball into a paper thin circle and cook in a medium hot skillet for 20 seconds on each side.

The tortillas cooked very quickly and evenly. Nothing was added to the pan, but the paper thin tortilla. Twenty seconds on each side, with light browning developing and then the hot tortilla was slipped into a glass covered dish to allow the steam to soften and moisten them.

The rice is finished and almost ready to serve. First, a jar of corn was added and a few fresh green onions to add a little more zip!

Here is the full meal deal! Grilled chicken thighs rubbed with a Southwest Seasoning, Spanish rice with corn in tortillas, salad, green onions, and plenty of salsa on the side.

But wait! There's more! Yes, there were plenty of left overs, so the next night the rice was reheated in the cast iron skillet with some water, then eggs were added to scramble and a bit of cheddar cheese. This concoction was then added to the tortillas for a breakfast burrito for dinner. Tim's was topped with a spicy sauce and I am saucy enough already!! Can you say Ole'?!!